While not usually taught in courses, possibly the most underrated skill an ASL student can learn is how to read hand-written Arabic. You will almost certainly be called upon to do this at some point if you aspire to a career in journalism, translation, consulting, Foreign Service, academic research etc.
In fact, this is more important than learning how to write Arabic itself. It is hard to envision many situations where a non-native would be called upon to write a document in Arabic. Whereas I can list dozens of work scenarios where the skill of being able to read hand-written Arabic would come in handy.
Here is The Bad News:
99.9% of the time, the documents you will encounter will look nothing like this:
I learned this hard way. It was 2008. I got a job interview in Cairo at the office of a major European media outlet. They wanted someone who could read incoming dispatches sent in from the field, always hand-written. It would be a cinch I thought.
The interview consisted of the director handing me a fax and having me read it out loud in Arabic. It was probably the shortest interview ever at this office. After making my way through 3 words in 30 seconds, I had bombed it.
Here are two random samples of what most hand written documents look like:
If you are an Arabic student, can you read the above 2 documents at close to the same speed at which you can read typed-out Arabic? If not, you don’t have this skill quite yet.
And these are pretty “neat.” Many will be far messier and more difficult to read than this.
So how do you go about learning Hand-written Arabic?
#1 – Just Take the Time To Learn It.
There is no magic formula. You just have to make a conscious decision to dedicate X amount of your time to developing this skill. Probably about 40 hours of studying. That may seem daunting and for that reason many figure the ROI isn’t worth it. But if you learn it, you will have learned a practical skill that can add significant value in any number of work-force situations.
#2 – Get a tutor and have them teach you hand written.
Practice. Have them write out a text you know in hand written, perhaps a random article from the front page of a newspaper. Read it. Then compare the two so you can recognize patterns.
#3 – Find a Copy of this book:
It does an excellent job at illustrating how there is a system. If I come across other good resources on hand-written Arabic I’ll be sure to update.